The Pittsburgh Riverhounds slumped to a second straight road defeat Saturday as Charleston Battery extended its unbeaten start to the season to seven games.
Zach Prince’s first half volley and further strikes from Dane Kelly and Dante Marini gave Charleston a commanding lead going into the closing stages at Blackbaud Stadium. Hounds substitute Miro Cabrilo netted a late header to maintain Pittsburgh’s record of scoring in every game this season despite falling to a 3-1 loss.
The Hounds (2-3-2) remain on eight points in the USL’s Eastern Conference. Charleston (5-0-2, 17 points) moves into a tie for top spot with the Rochester Rhinos.
Pittsburgh began the game confidently with some neat passing on the slick surface and a succession of corner kicks being forced. It was the hosts that almost carved out the first chance on nine minutes when Heviel Cordoves chased a long ball over the Hounds’ back line.
Fejiro Okiomah showed his athleticism to chase down the Cuban forward before nudging the ball to safety.
Okiomah’s efforts carried immediate consequences. The unfortunate defender appeared to tweak his right hamstring and was forced from the field early for the third time in six starts this season.
Charleston took advantage of the brief numerical advantage to open the scoring on 13 minutes before the Hounds could get substitute Drew Russell into action. Maikel Chang served up an ace of a cross from the left of the penalty area. Prince adjusted his body shape to smash his volley past Ryan Thompson from eight yards.
The Hounds had failed to score in five of their previous six visits to South Carolina since the new USL formed in 2011. They set about trying to improve on that record late in the first half with more controlled possession around the hosts’ penalty area.
Canadian full-back Tyler Pasher showed his attacking instincts with some encouraging bursts down the left flank and Kevin Kerr drifted in from the right of midfield to prompt many of the Hounds’ moves.
Pittsburgh’s final ball was too often lacking. Cuban goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper remained untroubled guarding the Battery net for most of the evening.
Thompson made a big save at the other end on 62 minutes to thwart his fellow Jamaican Kelly after the striker jinked into a 1-v-1 situation inside the 18-yard box. Kelly gained revenge two minutes later to double Charleston’s lead.
The Hounds’ defense coughed up the ball cheaply after Thompson took a short goal kick. Kelly gathered possession and ran through unopposed before slotting his shot low into the goalkeeper’s left corner.
Charleston effectively ended the game on 73 minutes when a couple of substitutes combined. Navion Boyd spun into space inside the penalty box before pulling the ball back for the unmarked Dante Marini to stroke his shot into the net.
Cabrilo scored his first goal of the season with nine minutes remaining to reduce the deficit to 3-1. Hounds captain Danny Earls whipped in a tantalizing cross from the left wing that the former Robert Morris University forward bulleted into Cooper’s top left corner with a fine header.
The Hounds return to action next Saturday, May 16, when the Richmond Kickers (4-1-3, 15 points) travel to Pittsburgh for the first of two consecutive meetings between the sides. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Tickets for this month’s remaining home games against Richmond and the Harrisburg City Islanders on May 30 are still available. Visit Riverhounds.com for details or call the Highmark Stadium box office on (412) 325-7241 to speak to a ticket representative.